Painting and architecture

Ivan Grohar (1867-1911): Pomlad (Spring)

 

The visual arts have traditionally been important in Slovenia. Fine local church painters appeared as early as the 12th and 13th century. But what could be perceived as national painting developed slowly and became recognisable as such only after the Romantic period.

Painting with a high artistic value only began to blossom in the beginning of the 20th century and was linked to Impressionism: Ivan Grogar, Rihard Jakopič, Matej Sternen and Matija Jama presented works of Slovenian Impressionism at an acclaimed exhibition in Vienna in 1904 and reached the qualitative pinnacle of Slovenian painting.

In the years following the Second World War, this relatively small club of excellent artists began to expand with the development of the Academy of Fine Arts, from which emerged new names of great renown, such as Gabrijel Stupica, Riko Debenjak, Maksim Sedej, Božidar Jakac, Veno Pilon and France Mihelič.

After 1960, the Ljubljana School of Graphic Art, in close association with the Ljubljana Graphic Art Biennial, rose to prominence with artists such as Janez Bernik, Andrej Jemec and Jože Ciuha. Until his death, the city of Paris was the creative environment of Zoran Mušič (1909–2005), Slovenia’s most renowned Modernist painter. The fact that there are so many people who can rightfully be considered world-class artists remains one of the sailent features of Slovenian visual arts.

Architecture

The stairway in the National and University Library in Ljubljana. The building cunstructed by Jože Plečnik. Photo: Jakše-Jeršič

Architecture holds a special place in Slovenian culture, which can be credited especially to the architect , arguably our best known artist of the past century. Plečnik was a cosmopolitan, working in the Czech Lands, in Vienna and Ljubljana, using his characteristic Neo-classical approach to create some monumental projects, such as the alterations to Hradčany Castle in Prague, the designs for the National and University Library building in Ljubljana, Ljubljana’s Žale Cemetery, the Zacherl House in Vienna, etc. Some of his contemporaries and students (Jager, Fabiani, Vurnik, Ravnikar, Mihelič) pursued the admirable tradition of Slovenian architecture. Boris Podrecca  is one of the Europe’s better known architects, while the architecture studios of Sadar-Vuga  and Bevk-Perović  also deserve special note.

When it comes to the arts, one cannot overlook the fine tradition of Slovenian applied arts and design, particularly product design. In the 1970’s, Slovenia became an important regional centre for product design; this development was indeed planned, as the Department of Design at the Academy of Fine Arts  was among the first in Europe; also, we should not forget the well-known Biennial of Industrial Design   held in Slovenia.

The existing network of visual arts institutions is relatively good: the National  and the Modern Arts  Galleries as the country’s main art galleries, and the Museum of Architecture and the International Graphic Arts Centre  are indeed the core national arts institutions, but there are several hundred art galleries and museums throughout the country.